The violation of graves at the Mowbray cemetery has been roundly condemned, with calls for the police to bring the culprits swiftly to book. About 80 gravesites at the burial grounds located near Groote Schuur hospital were tampered with, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, with most of the headstones removed. The slabs had been laid out in a cross formation in the cemetery, while others were formed into a triangle and placed inside open graves, that had been prepared for burial. Distressed relatives rushed to the cemetery on Wednesday in a bid to locate their loved one’s headstone and return it to its place.
The African National Congress in the Western Cape described the incident as “barbaric”, but also as an act of provocation against the Muslim community. The ANC urges the law-enforcement agencies to leave no stone unturned in its efforts to find the perpetrators.
“We share the deep pain felt by families whose departed loved ones have been violated in such a raw and heartless manner. We commend affected families and the Muslim community for exercising restraint in the face of this naked provocation,” said the ANC.
“All normal human beings everywhere in the world respect the dead and allow them to rest in peace. The graves are sacred places. Violating the dignity of the departed is unacceptable and unjustifiable. Vandalizing cemeteries is the worst form of barbarism and demonstrates the lowest level to which these faceless people have descended.”
The Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies said it was appalled by the incident and termed it an “Islamophobic attack”. A few months ago, 60 Jewish graves in the Wellington cemetery were also desecrated.,
“Despite having a constitution that guarantees freedom of religion, religious bigots still display their hatred and intolerance with cowardly attacks on graves. The fact that 80 headstones were removed from the koebis and placed on the ground to form a cross is beyond appalling and is an indication of a carefully planned attack by fundamentalists.”
Activist and MP Mandla Mandela said the violation of the sacred space is an “evil act” and an offence of not only religious sensibility but a violation of the values of peace, respect and dignity accorded to all citizens under the constitution.
“We appeal for calm and implore the Muslim Community to allow the law to take its course as such wanton acts of criminality must be dealt with by the full might of the law so that the perpetrators may be brought to book,” said Mandela.
“We can never allow such agent provocateurs to spread hatred, incite reciprocal violence and disturb the positive interfaith relations that prevail in our nascent democracy. The reward of good is only good and evil acts only lead to the destruction of the perpetrators themselves. This kind of gross violation shames us all as a society. The law must take its course.”
Western Cape police have opened a case of malicious damage to property. The Al Jam’aah party is expected to brief the media on Friday morning.